March 25, 2005 Mount Peyton Crash: (26 Photos)
As recalled by Paul Sooley, written by Mike Smith:
26. March 25, 2005 was Good Friday which marked the beginning of the Easter holiday weekend. With the snow completely melted on the East Coast, some of the crew decided to head West for a final run to end the season. Sooley, Bill, French, Todd, and a few fellows from Dental Hearing Crafts left town early Friday morning and arrived in Port Blandford around 9am under beautiful sunny skies.
25. French and Bill were riding their Yamaha RX1's, Todd his Skidoo REV 500ss and Sooley his '98 Skidoo Mach 1-700 Triple.
24. After unloading the sleds, the guys headed West on the groomed Provincial Trailway stopping here and there for occasional scenic pictures.
23. Somewhere between Terra Nova and Gambo Sooley's snowmobile exhibited signs of belt deterioration, kinda foreshadowing that the sled did not want to continue on this journey (premonition #1). Not having a replacement belt but not wanting to risk clutch damage, Sooley installed the spare belt from Bill's RX1. At this time they realized the clutches were slightly out of alignment, which was causing the belt to heat up and prematurely deteriorate. Normally this would mean turning back from such a long planned ride, but they decided to continue on their way. (premonition #2)
22. The crew reached Gambo shortly there after, and stopped at a local corner store to check on their repair. Since it was Good Friday, there were no parts stores open to purchase a proper belt. However, the clerk made a phone call and got a hold of a local snowmobiler who donated two used belts to the cause. Bill's spare belt was put back in place and with the proper skidoo belt installed and 2nd spare for Sooley's machine they decided to continue on their journey. The next stop was Gander where the crew topped up the sleds with gas before heading into Mount Peyton.
21. The trail in to Mount Peyton was a beautiful, swift, windy trail ride. It was especially beautiful under clear sunny skies and they soon arrived at the warm up shelter near the base of the mountain. At this time Sooley became quite in-disposed and made use of the outhouse.
20. During this time French & Todd spoke to the rest of the crew about the safe routes to climb the back side of Mount Peyton, as they both had been there earlier this year. (Gander Sled-n-Stay 2005)
19. A quite satisfied Sooley arrived from the outhouse to find the crew saddled up and ready to go. He motioned for them to go on as he'd catch up after donning his helmet, backpack, gloves, etc.
18. Sooley saddled up and rode the beautiful trail into the mountain. As he rounded the last turn in the trail he saw most of the crew standing around chatting at the base of the mountain and thought "what a bunch of chatter boxes, stopped again!" Spying Todd climbing the lower portion of the hill, Sooley decided not to stop and chased him up the hill (premonition #3). Todd stopped on a small plateau about half way up the mountain, Sooley thought "I'm not stopping until I reach the peak." (premonition #4) Standing up on the now vertical Mach1 Sooley pinned the throttle accelerating to the glory of being the first to crest the top!
There was a reason Todd didn't ride all the way to the top. During the safety meeting at the warm up shelter, Todd informed the crew that the plateau at the top of the hill in this area was very narrow, pizza shaped and not more then 10-20 feet wide on this end. It was safer to ride half way up, park on the plateau and walk the rest of the way.
17. Since Sooley knew none of this he continued his climb cresting the peak at a very rapid pace. The nine foot long, 700lb Mach1 carried way too much momentum to stop on such a delicate landing pad. The machine and rider continued over the crest accelerating down the far side approaching a sheer cliff and a drop hundreds of feet high. A few "OH SHIT'S" were uttered and the pucker factor was on bust, but instinct kicked in and he knew he had to get off the sled.
16. The Mach1 was a one up machine and with no backrest or luggage rack impeding his escape he scurried his way back off the machine, tumbled, then slid on his belly close behind racing head first towards the cliff's edge. I don't know what goes through your mind as you face certain death, and I don't think even Sooley knows to this day. It was by the grace of a higher power that there was a large rock at the edge of the cliff right in his slide path. Sooley's brand new helmet impacted the rock which immediately arrested his decent while allowing a clear and unobstructed view of his sled's destruction below. As the Mach1 free fell and clinked off boulders at the bottom of the mountain, Sooley thought "I'm defiantly not riding that home." The sled spun and danced its way over the last 200 foot drop to its final doom, scattering parts all across the landscape.
15. Sooley stood up did the finger/toe wiggle test and as he thanked his lucky stars as he pulled out his digital camera for a few pictures of this extremly rare view from Mount Peyton. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew were just reaching the crest of the hill. One of the Dental Hearing Crafts guys saw part of the horrific show and yelled to the crew that their buddy just went over the cliff. From the peak of the hill, you couldn't see where Sooley was standing. Todd and French raced back down the hill to find a way around the far side of the mountain. Meanwhile, Bill walked down the track left by Sooley's sled and found him taking pictures with his camera.
14. French was called and the rescue team came back up the hill to see their buddy. Later Todd and one of the guys made it to the base of the cliff, found Sooley's sled, and captured these pictures of the destruction.
2. With no useable parts left, Sooley gave the registration to a local and called it a day. Luckily one of the Dental Hearing Guys had a 2-up touring sled, so he rode as a passenger for the 150km return trip to the trucks in Port Blandford.
1. This quiet time gave Sooley time to reflect and he came up with the following lessons:
Copyright © 2011 Michael Smith